The UTEP softball team will get back to Conference USA action, as it will travel to Miami, Fla. to take on FIU on March 25 and 26 at Felsberg Field at FIU Softball Stadium.
The Miners (12-20, 3-3 C-USA) and Panthers (18-14, 4-2 C-USA) will tangle on Friday in a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. ET, and will conclude the series on Saturday at 1 p.m.
UTEP will make its first-ever trip to Miami and second travel arrangements to the Sunshine State. UTEP played at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton during the 2014 campaign.
Though UTEP won at UNLV on Feb. 19, ending a 21-gmae road losing streak, the Miners are looking for their first road win in conference action since defeating ECU on May 4, 2014. The Miners are 0-15 since last season on the road in league contests.
UTEP went 3-2 last week, while ending a six-game skid after defeating LA Tech 13-7, in game one, and following with an exciting game two victory, 7-6 in eight innings on March 19. Danielle Pearson pitched her second-career shutout and Courtney Clayton tallied three RBI, as the UTEP softball team took down LA Tech, 8-0 (five innings) to sweep the series March 20. The Miners also faced off against No. 15 Missouri where they dropped two games to the Tigers by scores of 15-4 and 10-0.
All-Time Series vs. FIU
UTEP holds a 3-0 record against FIU since the two programs squared off against each other for the first time last year (April 11-12, 2015). In one of the final conference series at home at the Helen of Troy Field, the Miners swept the Panthers in all three contests, 3-2, 11-10 (8), and 9-1 (5).
Last Series (UTEP 3, FIU 0)
In the last series between the two C-USA competitors, The Miners defeated the Panthers 3-2, in the first game, and won a wild game two, 11-10 in eight innings.
UTEP hit three home runs, and displayed solid pitching. In game one, Kawehiokalani Netane accounted for all of UTEP’s runs with a two-run home run and a sac-fly to center. The Miners wrapped up the second day of the series with a 9-1 win over FIU in five frames to complete the weekend sweep. The UTEP softball team scored eight runs in the fourth inning.
Kaitlin Fifield was in control in the circle, Courtney Clayton finished 2-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored, Netane tallied a pair of RBI, while Hope Moreno, Linda Garcia and Kaitlin Ryder each recorded a hit apiece.
The Panthers are 18-14 (4-2, C-USA) after defeating WKU during a road Conference USA series last weekend. After losing a pair of games to the Lady Toppers on March 19 (2-10, 4-5) FIU slugged past WKU 16-7 to end a four-game losing streak for the Panthers. FIU is ranked first in conference with a .328 batting average and ranked third in pitching with a 3.17 ERA.
Ashley Leon leads the Panthers in batting with a .434 average, while A.J. Belens leads with 23 RBI (.396 batting average), and four home runs. Freshman Megan Kugelmann leads the FIU pitching staff with five wins (5-1 record), a 1.36 ERA in 45.2 innings pitched, five complete games and three shutouts. Kugelmann has been named C-USA Co-Pitcher of the Week three consecutive weeks (Feb. 29, March 7 & 14).
Offensive Ranking in C-USA
UTEP’s offense has been a bright spot, as is hitting .308 after the last five contests. The Miners rank fifth in Conference USA in that category, while ranking no. 2 in home runs (25) behind North Texas (29). UTEP ranks second in hits (256) behind FIU (271), ranks second in doubles (41) behind FIU (42), and fourth in slugging (.455).
Knocking in Runs
The Miners have tallied 129 RBI in 2016, ranking fifth in Conference USA. The team is on pace for around 214 RBI, which would surpass the 2014 (193) and 2015 (201) totals. The 2007 squad tallied 264 RBI, while the 2006 team recorded 248.
C-USA Offensive Rankings
UTEP’s .331 batting average in six league games ranks fifth in Conference USA, while leading the league with 10 doubles. The Miners rank second in hits (55) behind Marshall’s 70 knocks, while ranking third with 29 RBI.
After hitting .264 with 18 home runs in 2013, the last few seasons have seen offensive numbers increase. In 2104, UTEP hit .290 with 30 dingers, while last season, its .293 average is the second best average in school history. The Miners also connected on 39 long balls in 2015. The 2007 team hit a program-best .303, while the 2009 squad recorded a school-record 63 jacks.
UTEP turned a trio of double plays against Marshall on March 13, tying a program record. The feat as been achieved three other times – the last time being Feb. 13, 2005 against North Texas. The Miners are tied first with LA Tech with 15 double plays turned in 2016. Last season, UTEP tied a program record with the 2007 team by registering 21 double plays.
The Miners are on pace for about 25 double plays, which would rank no. 1 in school history. The Conference USA record is 32, by the 2009 UCF squad. FIU led the league in 2015 (24 DPs).
UTEP has committed 33 errors during the first 32 games in 2016, nine less than last season at this time. If the Miners keep this pace, they will have committed around 55 errors, which would be the least in program history. The 2007 defense committed only 59 in 2007. The fielding has improved, somewhat, during the last few seasons.
In 2012, UTEP committed 86 errors, while in 2013, 81 miscues were scored. Since Tobin Echo-Hawk and Cristina Cobb-Adams – both infielders in college – arrived to the Sun City, the Miners committed 69 in 2014 and 73 last season. North Texas (15) and UAB (20) are top two teams with the least amount of miscues in 2016.
Pearson’s Back-2-Back W’s
Danielle Pearson recorded two wins in two days for the first time in her UTEP career. Pearson defeated LA Tech on March 19 and 20, hurling a combined 13.0 innings, allowing six runs (three earned) and tallying a 1.62 ERA during the two victories. Pearson also recorded her second shutout of the season and career. She threw 5.0 frames during UTEP’s 8-0 run rule win on March 20.
The Pep is back in Her Step
Kiki Pepi, who didn’t register an RBI from March 6-15 (six games), finally got off the schneid when she tallied an RBI against LA Tech on March 19 (game one). Not only did Pepi get that RBI, she did it on a solo home run, her first since Feb. 20. It started a ripple effect, as the junior recorded five more RBI, including three during game two in the series sweep over LA Tech.
Before going 0-for-2 against Missouri in game two, Pepi had been on an eight-game hitting streak (March 12-21), batting .321 (9-for-28 with six RBI, a double, home run and three runs scored.
After tying another double against LA Tech on March 19 (game one), sophomore Courtney Clayton ranks no. 1 in Conference USA in doubles (12) and is on pace for around 20 in 2016. Camilla Carrera holds the school standard with 19 in 2009.
Ashley Eldridge (2014), Chelsea Troupe (2009) and Ashley Bennett (2005) each tallied 17 – second best in school history. Clayton set her career high with two doubles against Grand Canyon on Feb. 21 and has accomplished the feat two more times (at Marshall on March 12; vs. New Mexico on March 15).
Court is in Session
Courtney Clayton’s bat has set the bar, as she leads the Miners in hitting (.383), slugging (.626), runs scored (28), hits (41), doubles (12), total bases (67), while ranking second in RBI (27), tied second in home runs (four) and tied first in triples (one). As far as Conference USA rankings, Clayton ranks first in doubles and at bats (107), eighth in hitting, seventh in slugging, tied first in runs scored, tied first in hits, tied fourth in RBI, and second in total bases. Clayton ranks fifth is assists (62).
Walk This Way
Kaitlin Ryder ranks fifth in Conference USA in walks (17) after posting another against LA Tech on March 19 (game two). Last season, Ryder walked 11 times in 79 at bats; this season, Ryder has 91 at bats. At this pace, Ryder could crack the top five in school history in walks. Stacie Townsend was walked 51 times in 2010, while Camilla Carrera walked 49 times in 2012. Townsend (34 in 2008), Amber Bennett (33 in 2007) and Carrera (31 in 2009) round out the list.
The Ryd Stuff
Sophomore Kaitlin Ryder has made a dramatic improvement in her hitting this season after hitting .241 in 2015. She ranks second on the team in batting average (.374), slugging (.527), runs scored (19), hits (34) and total bases (48). Ryder’s on-base percentage (.477) leads UTEP and ranks no. 7 in conference. Ryder has matched her home run (three) total from her freshman campaign, and has 17 RBI after posting 16 her freshman season.
Taylor Sargent ended a team season-high nine-game hitting streak during the second game against nationally ranked Missouri on March 21. Sargent hit .414 (12-for-29) during the streak (March 12-21). In the first game against the No. 15 Tigers, Sargent tallied a career-high two doubles, while tying her career best with a pair of RBI. During the hitting streak, Sargent produced five runs, five RBI and five doubles.
Sophomore Taylor Sargent’s bat has made a dramatic improvement after hitting .232 in 2015. Sargent ranks third on the team in hitting (.330), while connecting on a home run with 13 RBI. She’s tied with Kawehiokalani Netane with 15 runs scored and ranks second in doubles (nine). Defensively, Sargent has played the infield and outfield, but has been primarily used at first base. She leads the team in putouts (132) and is ninth in Conference USA, while ranking second with seven double plays fielded in C-USA.
Freshmen Ariel Blair, Cortney Smith and Lindsey Sokoloski have made major contributions to the team in 2016. Blair is on a six-game hitting streak and is batting .348 (16-for-46) with 10 runs scored and a pair of stolen bags (leads team), while starting 18 contests in the outfield. Sokoloski is hitting .268 (11-for-41) with seven runs and a trio of RBI, and has started 10 contests.
Smith is hitting .320 (16-for-50) with a home run, six RBI and 12 runs, while starting 21 games at the shortstop position.